With the last couple of days being an exercise in indulgent luxury the quartet is back together and heading off to the hot springs in the foothills of the Andes. Hot springs appear to be a more regular phenomenon than I had expected, the Andes are active and alive like no other range, bursting with hot mineral water all over the place. It’s in these mineral springs that we will get our noses closer to the mountains and take the gears down a little. We walk to the girls hostel to sit waiting for our very friendly but all together grossly tardy driver for today Catarina, the host at the girls hostel. After an unexpected coffee stop we’re off about two hours after planned but this is a chill-out day today so it’s not a drama. The drive is also pleasant, as we near the mountains we get views similar if smaller than the trip from Chile over the border to Argentina. The mountains set themselves up as a fitting location for a day of rest and relaxation.
Climbing high into a precipitous and picturesque valley one hour into the supposed 40 minute trip we’re getting the impression that we’re not dealing with a Swiss organisational maestro. Never the less we pull up to a more bustling little oasis in the desert than we expected, a hive of activity from handicraft shops to restaurants and bars and into the thermals. There’s apparently around 20 pools here at varying degrees of temperature so we’re sure to find a spot. Wrong. Holy crap is there anyone left in Mendoza at all? The top level of pools are the hottest ones with that term applying to the water alone and it shall in no way be applied to the inhabitants; but more on that later. It appears this is more of a fun activity scene fitted with small slides and watercourses rather than the setting for soaking away all ills as we expected.
Not to be deterred, this is a beautiful setting and we head to the less crowded and cooler lower levels to literally jump into the day. We take turns at a lap of a watercourse with a helpful drift of current and venture into a warmer pool enjoying a great location with gracious mountains rising up all around us. But we don’t stay for long, we walked past another parrilla on the way in so we leave the girls to venture off into the beef forest once again, it would be rude no to. Oh ok, if we must open a bottle of wine it would probably be rude not to do that too. We tell each other that we’re getting it with a mind to share with the girls of course, it’s not like we’d drink a whole bottle to ourselves at lunch now would we.
We are let off the hook with our food arriving just as the girls join us. We hastily gather more glasses and we literally pour out our guilt. This parrilla isn’t quite to the standard of the one two days ago but it’s still awesome, juicy meat and sausages are brought to us on a sizzling mini barbecue, we gawk, we salivate, we gorge; this is sinfully good. I’ll now skip right over the fact that Sophie orders another bottle of wine for their meal, surely two bottles between four imbues less guilt than one between two. Doesn’t it? For once we are the sensible ones though, we have to stop Sophies pre-alcoholic lack of moderation from ordering another bottle as much to our own surprise as anyone else’s. Mendoza has been, shall we say, hospitable so far.
Too much meat (wash my mouth out), not enough relaxing, we take another hour or so back in the baths before our ride returns. I particularly am keen to wriggle in with the pod and have a go at the hotter pools but it doesn’t last long. Delicate language now, this is a touchy subject but, South America has a pretty noticeable obesity issue going on and it’s in full swing here. Adults are a benign topic but it does sadden me to see off the huge number of kids here that probably nine out of ten are seriously overweight. They’re all happy kids it appears and the lack of vanity and narcissism is refreshing, that’s the upside. However a part of me can’t get past thinking that so many of these kids surely have really poor diets and are being educated poorly in matters of nutrition. Fast forward a few years and I can’t help but think it’s not the best start in life to grant a kid. I guess it’s all a societal and education issue and it indeed does exist nearly everywhere. Here though it’s feeling quite pronounced. It’s no surprise that Argentina is the worlds greatest consumer of soft drink, 131 litres per person per year, ouch. Chile comes in second with Mexico third with Coca Cola leading the way with huge market shares, hmmm.
Kids aside though, the adults are a similar fish but pardoning the pun, just bigger. Visiting a place like this is fantastic for ones vain sense of self image, it’s very easy to feel pretty hot here. We kick away our time soaking up a cooler uncrowded pool with a great outlook and taking silly photos. This visit isn’t what we’d planned at all but it’s been great fun all the same. Of course Catarina is about half an hour late running a very close scare with a Charlie impatience meltdown. Luckily the day ends fairly drama free and we’re on our way.
We do have a little date to finish off the day though. The girls are leaving for Cordoba on the night bus tonight so we grab some little snacks and crack open the ’94 Carmelo Patti on the small rooftop terrace of their accommodation. After farewelling team Poland we now farewell team Melbourne, we’ll be without travel buddies for the first time in a while. And we do it in style, cured meats, cheese, olives and dark chocolate set off a stunner of a drop; a fitting send off to the Melbournians. In a short time we’ve become good mates, beginning with hearing of Kate’s public princess fit in Valpo slipping in faeces and concluding with Sophie going pretty close to sharing her cow/ poo selfie (don’t ask). It’s safe to say that the limiting shackles of propriety were throw off along with the chances of not keeping in touch with our two new Greek yaya’s some time ago. I wonder what the story is with these otherwise glamorous ladies and poo?
On a more refined note, Mendoza is definitely laying out the red carpet for us in terms of a first impression into Argentina. At some stage we’ll have to slow down but for now we’re on the ride with more enjoyment being thrown at us than we know what to do with. Tomorrow is another day, it can also wait till tomorrow.